Sunday, 22 September 2019
MORE than 150 young local rugby players had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on Saturday when they had Twickenham Stadium all to themselves.
Scores of players from Henley rugby club’s Kids First & Juniors section were joined by players from Shiplake College, Rams, Wallingford and the Twickenham Rugbytots group to experience the home of English rugby as very few people have the chance to do.
Players were accompanied by coaches and families as they arrived through the same Rose and Poppy gates that England internationals come through before matches at Twickenham.
From there they were taken to the away changing rooms to put on their boots before lining up in the tunnel.
To cheers and applause from guests and coaches gathered by the tunnel entrance, the players then ran on to the pitch, accompanied by musical fanfare and stadium announcements before standing to face the royal box and sing God Save The Queen.
Coaches from the clubs then ran games and skills sessions for their teams on the pitch, all under glorious summer sunshine. Many coaches also took the opportunity to try and recreate famous kicks from in front of the Twickenham posts.
After their games players rejoined their families to take a tour of the England dressing room and an opportunity to sit where their heroes gather before and after matches and where the England team had been for the final time the previous weekend before their departure to Japan for the Rugby World Cup.
The event was the result of a donation by club member Mark Clifford, who had bid for the access to Twickenham at an England rugby charity dinner a couple of weeks previously.
He said: “Being able to give Henley Rugby Club an opportunity to not just watch but to experience playing on the famous pitch which could be enjoyed across the age groups as well as extending to other clubs, hopefully will inspire the young players to continue playing the wonderful game for years to come”
Max Tilney, Henley under-11s head coach, said: “It was a hugely generous donation by Mark to the club. We aim to create memorable experiences through rugby for our young players and this day certainly achieved that.
“Mark is a great supporter of our team, in which his son Josh plays, and the club as a whole. My sincere thanks go to him and also to Kate Barratt, our team manager, for helping pull together such an incredible day in a very short time frame.”
Nick Bradbury, chairman of the Kids First & Juniors section, said: “This was an amazing experience for the kids to have at Twickenham. To get to play on the hallowed turf for an hour and to tour the England dressing rooms will help inspire the next generation of international players and hopefully we will have one, or more, in our group.”
Any parents whose children are interested in playing at the club should visit www.henleyrugbyclub.co.uk or call (01491) 574499.
09 September 2019
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